3/4/2020New Jersey Court: No Second Chance On Car Accident Settlement
Car accident victim who turned down big settlement cannot get a new trial when a jury returns a lower award, New Jersey appellate panel ruled.
A man injured in an automobile accident who turned down a $750,000 settlement offer cannot go back after a jury awarded him just $182,750. That was the finding of the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, which last week rejected Robert Cohen's attempt to retry his case after the unfavorable outcome.
Cohen was struck on May 6, 2016, by a truck operated by R-D Trucking Inc. He suffered multiple fracture to his head, leg, hip and ribs requiring multiple surgeries and extensive physical therapy to restore normal function.
At trial, Cohen's doctor, Patricio Grob, testified that he was healing well several months after the incident. After a year, the doctor saw all of the fractures had healed and Cohen was able to walk perfectly well. His function was "very good." The only problems were that the 22-year-old was developing trauma-induced arthritis, and it was only a matter of time before he would need a hip replacement. A second doctor, Craig H. Lichtblau, testified that Cohen's movement was actually much more limited and he likely faced $504,000 in future medical bills from treatment.
Hearing this testimony in the middle of the trial, the trucking company's insurance agent offered to settle the remaining damages for $750,000. Cohen rejected the offer, and the trial resumed. The jury then returned a verdict that only gave Cohen $182,750, which was upped to $206,789 to cover outstanding medical bills.
Explaining that his injuries were "horrific," Cohen asked the judge for a new trial. Allowing such a low verdict to stand, he insisted, would be a miscarriage of justice. The judge refused to do so, and last week the three-judge appellate panel agreed after noting the discrepancy in testimony between the doctors that Cohen himself called to the stand.
"To the extent the experts' opinions conflicted, the judge found that Dr Lichtblau appeared to be 'pompous and arrogant' while testifying," the appellate panel ruled. "The judge also found that plaintiff appeared to be 'doing quite well' and did not appear to be 'dealing with the residuals of [his] accident.' ...In short, canvassing the record before us, the jury's award of pain and suffering was not a miscarriage of justice, as it was supported by the evidence at trial, and it was not so paltry as to shock the judicial conscience."
A copy of the ruling is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.